For only the second time during the 18 months America has been battling COVID-19, the country reached 100,000 daily hospitalizations due to infection with the virus, matching the previous record seen last winter.
In several states, the fourth wave, or summer surge caused by the Delta (B1617.2) variant, has led to hospital bed and healthcare worker shortages. Intensive care units (ICUs) have reached capacity in places such as Georgia, Mississippi and Florida. In those states, elective surgeries have been put on hold.
Today during an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting on COVID-19 vaccines, committee members heard that 23 states are reporting over 80% of ICU capacity is being used by COVID-19 patients. The ACIP advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The United States reported 36,383 new COVID-19 cases yesterday and 277 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker. In total, the country has confirmed 38,877,840 COVID-19 cases and 637,930 deaths.
ACIP votes unanimously in favor of Pfizer
Today the ACIP voted unanimously to recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people ages 16 and up, and once again said the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any risks. The step follows the recent full approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
During the meeting, members saw new data that showed the rate of anaphylaxis after mRNA vaccination was 5 cases per million doses, and that cases of myocarditis following mRNA vaccination are likely more mild than those that would occur naturally.
There have been no deaths in patients suffering from vaccine-related myocarditis.
ACIP members also discussed the use of booster shots in the United States, noting the top vaccination priority in the country needs to be reaching the unvaccinated, followed by boosting those most at risk for severe infection, including the immunocompromised.
Debate over masking in schools
Many American schoolchildren head back to classrooms this week, and five states, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah, are under investigation by the Education Department’s civil rights enforcement arm to see if statewide mask mandate prohibitions are discriminatory towards students with disabilities.
Prohibiting mandates could prevent disabled students from “safely returning to in-person education, in violation of Federal law.”
In related news, a Florida judge ruled on Friday that Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration overstepped its authority in barring school districts from issuing mask mandates, the Washington Post reports.
The judge, siding with concerned parents, said the governor’s order infringed on classroom safety guaranteed by the Florida constitution.
Last week, the state tracked 20,331 new cases in children under 12. Last week the state reported more than 150,000 cases in total.
Yesterday, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, told CNN that he thinks mandating COVID-19 vaccines for children to attend school in person is a good idea due to a strong benefit-risk ratio.
Other US developments
- A growing number of states are rolling out digital vaccine passports developed by a consortium of health and technology companies, according to Politico. California, New York, and Louisiana are among the states deploying the technology, and at least half a dozen other states are considering it.
- Despite no evidence of effectiveness in treating COVID-19, prescriptions for the antiparasitic drug ivermectin have jumped to more than 88,000 per week, up from 3,600 per week pre-pandemic, the New York Times reports.
- The CDC COVID Data Tracker shows 52.4% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 61.7% have received at least one dose.